I am a Threshold of Flesh and Blood

Image Credit: Foundry Co from Pixabay

Originally written for The Mudroom.

I was young when I first realized that my biracial existence inhabits liminal space. 

We piled into the sticky church van, and left the Californian mountains where I’d spent a week at an Asian American Christian summer camp. It was my first experience at a summer camp, my first experience with a large group of Christians, and my first time exclusively surrounded by other Asian Americans. As we drove down the mountain, away from late night campfire worship songs and Bible stories I’d heard for the first time in my life, a friend in the van turned towards me and announced, “You should’ve heard how some of the boys talked about you in our cabin last night. They are obsessed with mixed girls like you.” I could tell he thought the comment was something I should be happy about, but all I felt was the heat rising between my skin and cheekbones.

Years later, thinking about that comment would make me feel small and shriveled up inside. It weaved itself into everything. It was clear that being obsessed with “mixed girls like me” meant being obsessed with the power of whiteness more than anything. I tell a friend about it, but she asks why I’m upset and making things about race, and claims she would be happy to have the attention—however it comes.

Even before I knew his name, white supremacy was waging a war around me and within me.

Without any formal training, I learned to resist my Koreanness like I was on a strict diet. I cut things out, hid what felt most like home, brushed and beat the wild out of my mixed hair, and said no to things I’d always loved. I tried to starve the Imago Dei in me. 

It took many long years before I began to realize that my biracial body was a beautiful bridge of existence.

Head on over to The Mudroom to read the rest of the post!

Lament on the First Day of Spring

The first day of spring was the color of dust and stone this year. That morning, I backed our minivan out of the garage under a continuous cloud stretched across the sky, a barrier between us and the warmth of the sun. The skin around my eyes was puffy and pressed against the plastic rims of my glasses like pillows, reminding me how turbulent the last night of winter was.  Despite the mercies of a new morning, I woke in the aftermath of my own storm. There was wreckage to clean up, things to mend.

I drove my daughter to preschool and looked forward to being back at home in an empty house. Outside our window, we passed the same unremarkable strip malls we pass every time we go this route. Their homogenous messages blurred into one. We passed beige fields and rows of trees that remain thin and naked, their branches reaching to the sky like bitter fingers.

Don’t they know it’s the first day of spring?

It’s easy for me find beauty in shades of gray and layers of fog.  I am not afraid of the melancholy of cloudy days, of bare brown tree limbs, or the visible effects of a long winter.  

But today, all I see is the litter of plastic bags tangled among the tree trunks. 

Have there always been so many?

There’s trash wrapped around the foundation of almost every tree I see. The grief I feel wraps around me as well.

I’ve been passionate about racial reconciliation for years, but engaging in it exhausts me. Since I was a little girl, I’ve thought about the way cultures collide. I’ve seen the effects of those collisions up close.  I’ve lived them.  My own body feels like a collision of worlds, of ethnicities and cultures, of the East and the West, of racial distinctions made with the intention to separate and classify. If I try to ignore racial reconciliation, I attempt to ignore myself.

But engaging in it is not a calling that makes me feel alive. There’s no arriving or hustling that fits into the work of it. My heart beats faster for it, but it’s lonely and heartbreaking and I have no choice but to face it.

Racial reconciliation isn’t something anyone in the church should be able to choose to be apathetic to. And yet, there are many who believe they don’t have to engage because they aren’t feeling it and weren’t born facing it. It’s a flat-out privilege for anyone to say they aren’t feeling itand it’s not their thing.

I wonder how many people weren’t feeling it as they watched their neighbors leave homes with a suitcase of belongings and a yellow star pinned onto their clothes.

Don’t they know we’ve always belonged to one another?

The last couple of months, I was knee-deep in writing about racism for a project I was a part of.  I was hopeful at times, comforted and riled up as I honed in on Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation, but terrified to hope for anything in the world I know. Writing about such a huge topic with such a tiny and inadequate space for the words was daunting, and I came home from the library where I worked and cried often.

The lament I felt as I re-read books, found new ones and tried to write anything worth anything, felt as heavy and ridiculous as wearing a mink coat in the summer. I would rather not wear it. I would rather not be a person who wears a winter coat and tries to get others to wear one with me while they are trying to enjoy their ice cream.

We had a few unusually warm days this past winter. They were so warm that buds showed up on some of the trees in our backyard.  After the most recent tease, winter came back with a vengeance. I walked through our backyard covered in ice to marvel at the way winter has the power to silence things. It was eerily quiet but it felt like someone was laughing. The buds were completely frozen, their tender hope stopped cold.

Engaging in racial reconciliation as a woman of color in the world, and in evangelical circles today, feels like being a tender bud trying to survive Winter’s constant comebacks. There’s hope and there are new mercies every day, but there’s still so much silence and cold. When someone says they are scared to be too bold about racism for fear of scaring people away, we all know which people are the ones everyone is most worried about scaring away. What about those of us who are just trying to keep one bud alive in a world frozen with the power of winter?  

Isn’t anyone worried about scaring us away? 

Do they know how many times we’ve wanted to leave already? 

The calendar says that spring is here, but I still see the bags littered among bare trees.  I cannot ignore them. I refuse to ignore them.

Will anyone else notice the trash we’ve all left on the imago dei?  There’s wreckage to clean up. There are hearts that still need mending.  

All the Pages

While she was still in Korea, our daughter went to a weekly playgroup with other kids like her, who were waiting for their forever families. When we came to bring her home, the adoption agency that had become part of her regular community gave us a little photo book with a cheerful yellow cover and English words and phrases spread throughout it like, “I love you” and “happy day.”  It’s full of pictures of her at playgroup playing with friends, enjoying Korean snacks and Korean toys. It’s a glimpse of her in her culture of birth before everything changed.

She loves to look at this book. Every so often, she will pull it off of the bookcase on the low shelf spot it keeps and pore over every page of it on repeat. Even though she is young and cannot fully comprehend or explain the loss she’s experienced, it’s clear that she still feels it, no matter how happy, brave and adjusted she’s become since. Early on, I was a little afraid to show her this book and other things that would remind her of life before us. For a few weeks, I put it on a high shelf behind other big books and looked at it when I was alone, thinking about what we would say when she looked through it and wondering what she would remember of it.

Eventually, we put the book out where she can see it and reach it and show interest on her terms. We look at the book and other pictures we have now and speak simply but honestly.  We don’t do this perfectly.  Sometimes I feel fear sneaking up on me and the desire to try and make sure she is happy and doesn’t have to face anything that reminds her of what she’s lost is strong. I have to push back against this. Again, and again, we see how imperative it is that we welcome her whole story. A story is incomplete without all the pages. In adoption and beyond, we must to learn to welcome our whole stories, or we risk missing out on growing in grace and knowing how deeply we are loved.


When she looks at the book, she says things like, “I want  go there. Can we go Korea ‘gain?  Together?”  She then lists each of our names and says she wants us all to be there. She naturally wants to make connections between the two worlds she has known in her short life while knowing that we aren’t going anywhere and that we are forever.

We tell her we want to go back there and yes, that we want to go back there together. Every chance we have, we try, however imperfectly, to tell her that what she grieves is worthy of the grief she feels, whenever and however she feels it.

In western Christian culture, we’ve been conditioned to hide sadness, cover up weakness and put a strong and cheerful face forward. We hide our grief for fear that others will mistake it for ingratitude.  We bury our lament before it’s finished because we’ve been told there’s an open window somewhere that we should be focusing on instead.  And yet, when I look at scripture, I see there is welcome space for these things. There are no time limits or cut-off dates placed over them.  Jeremiah does this beautifully in Lamentations 3.  While the chapter ends with hope, there’s nothing of platitude in his writing.  In Lamentations 3:19-24 (The Message), he writes:

“I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
    the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
    the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
    and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.”

His sadness is spiritual; he meets with God and affirms the place of his hope in the very depth of it. The most beautiful art and poetry courageously rise from places of ash and loss, brokenness and grief.

I am learning from my daughter.  It’s impacting the way Matt and I parent all of our kids and the way we welcome our own stories with wholeness.  I watch my daughter’s small hands working together, one holding her playgroup picture book  steady while the other turns pages and urges her to remember who she was and who she is. I am learning in fresh ways that grief and joy can co-exist and work together. Like two hands from the same body, they work together to lead us to our one and only hope throughout every page of our story.


Good observation is never fast; as a child, I was an excellent observer.  I noticed things and I remember feeling as if there was never enough time for all of the things I observed and was curious about. Shortly after my family moved overseas, when I was 6 or 7, I saw teenage students mocking an older homeless man as he lay on a bench on the busy streets of Tokyo. I couldn’t take my eyes off of what was happening.  The world had stopped so that I could feel my heart ache.  I remember my Dad pulling my hand, reminding me that we had somewhere to go and to be. All I wanted was to stop and help the man we saw, scold the teenagers and talk with my Dad about why this older man was all alone in the state he was in, and why the teenagers were acting the way they were.  It
burdened me for weeks, bringing tears to my eyes at each remembrance of it.
In elementary school, a teacher described my reading as slow.  I’ve written about this elsewhere before, but it took some time for reading to catch on for me. But before I understood how the letters made words and words, sentences, I remember noticing the curves and lines of every letter and how some stood tall and confident, while others sat round and kind, and how our English letters differed from the characters I saw in everyday life as an expat child living in Japan.
At some point along the way of “growing up,” I realized that the world was asking me to move faster and I surrendered to the felt request.  I heard the silent expectation for me to move fast or get out of the way.  I believed the unspoken rule that going slow meant missing out on life.  Apparently, the good life only happened in the fast lane.  It didn’t take long for me to believe that slow was something to avoid and something to be ashamed of.
Over the last few years,  I have been realizing just how frantic and frenzied my spirit has become. I’ve realized how wrong I was to believe that slow is bad.
The last 6 months in particular have forced me to slow down in a fresh way.  I’ve been homebound and free of commitments outside of home and family in a way that I haven’t been for 5 years.  I knew it would be necessary for our family, but I had no idea how much I personally needed to push the pause button.
I’ve come face-to-face with my impatience and the unkindness in me that flows out of it over the last 6 months.  It hasn’t been pretty and I’ve spent time apologizing to my family and lamenting over the hurt that my impatience and unkindness has caused more times than I would like to admit.
When we move at a frantic pace, we don’t have time to see
the reality of brokenness in our world.
When we live life in a frenzy, we don’t have space to see
the brokenness and sin in our own hearts.
When our pace of life is only fast, we don’t have room to
lament and grieve or repent and receive.
If we want to truly become more like Jesus and we believe that He is the answer to every broken place in the world and within, there’s no other option but to slow down so we might truly see and respond to what we see.
As a new school year and Fall season peers around the corner at me with plans and new commitments in hand, I am aware of my pace.

This past summer, I’ve been reaching back for that little girl who noticed injustice on the streets of Tokyo, and telling her that it was okay that she stopped to let her heart ache.  I’m reaching for her and finding that Jesus was there, pursuing her heart, and giving her a glimpse of His own heartbeat in those slow and broken places.

More than ever, I am embracing slow as a beautiful and necessary description for my own healing and for the healing we all long to see in world.